Updated 18 Dec 2021
Cloud-native applications have been pinned as the future of software development due to their steady increase in proliferation over recent years. The Cloud-Native Computing Foundation calculated that there were about 6.5 million cloud-native developers active in 2020, a marked increase from 4.7 million in 2019.
New technologies used for developing cloud applications, including Kubernetes, containers, and serverless architectures, are changing the way companies build and deploy them. While the steady growth of cloud-native SaaS applications has accelerated the pace, efficiency, and success of business, this modern approach to development has introduced a myriad of new cloud security concerns.
While cloud-native applications are inherently more beneficial than their on-premise counterparts, These new sets of security risks can’t be mitigated by applying traditional approaches to SaaS security.
So, how can you establish effective SaaS security thresholds while doing cloud-native application development?
First, let’s remind ourselves of what ‘cloud-native’ refers to and what cloud-native applications are.
Cloud-native is a contemporary approach to creating, deploying, and running software applications that utilize the resilience, flexibility, and scalability of cloud computing. ‘Cloud-native’ comprises the different tools and techniques used by developers to create applications for the public cloud, rather than the conventional architectures suited to private data centers.
A cloud-native application, therefore, is one that is designed and built specifically for a cloud computing architecture. They are run and hosted in the cloud and are developed to leverage the intrinsic characteristics of a cloud computing software delivery model.
Cloud-native applications utilize a microservice architecture that efficiently distributes resources to each service that the application uses, making it incredibly flexible and adaptable to a range of cloud architectures.
The benefits of cloud-native application development are limitless, however, a lack of security continues to be one major problem. Modern development approaches and technologies, such as CI/CD, containers, and serverless, demand effective security that delivers immediate protection, earlier detection, and assurance that an organization’s cloud services fulfill security best practices, all while preserving speed and efficiency.
Migrating applications to the cloud from traditional IT systems does not mean that organizations should accept a more vulnerable security stance in return for the conveniences and additional benefits that cloud computing provides.
There isn’t anything inherently less secure about public cloud infrastructures. In fact, cloud providers such as Google and Amazon adhere to the highest standards of security and compliance, taking their ‘shared responsibility’ very seriously, often exceeding what most private enterprises could maintain in their data centers.
Security problems emerge from how businesses configure and use public clouds, especially SaaS (software as a service), IaaS (infrastructure as a service), and PaaS (platform as a service). Conventional application security measures often don’t work very well when using serverless or container architectures to create cloud-native applications.
Developers are adopting new codes of practice and techniques to establish effective security thresholds, as it’s clear that the key to this lies in the development phase of cloud-native applications.
Before DevOps, dedicated security teams gave late-stage assessments and guidance before applications moved from the development phase into systems running in production. Security was frequently only considered toward the back end of development, creating substantial delays if issues emerged that required fundamental changes to the application. This attitude toward security is no longer acceptable in today’s more agile, cloud-focused development models, where efficiency, speed, and automation are key.
Developers are constantly under pressure to design, build, and launch applications quicker than ever and to frequently update them through automated procedures. To continually achieve these lofty goals, organizations now deploy applications developed on containers and functions straight into production, handling and overseeing them with orchestration tools like Kubernetes, and running them in the cloud. Consequently, productivity increases, but so does the security risk.
Hitting a balance between speed and effective security requires senior-level security officers to implement strategies to proactively address cloud-native security requirements with developers to make sure security infrastructures are thoroughly integrated into the software development lifecycle. Moreover, this allows businesses to catch security issues earlier in development without slowing down production.
Many companies still depend on traditional security instruments that can’t handle the speed, scale, and dynamic networking conditions of containers. The addition of modern, serverless functions heightens the problem by further abstracting infrastructure to supply a straightforward execution environment for microservices and applications.
Cyber attackers search for misconfigured cloud infrastructure permissions and vulnerabilities in the serverless function code to reach services or networks that hold private information.
Enterprises can use CI/CD tools like Bamboo, Jenkins, and Azure DevOps to continuously develop, test, and ship applications. When utilizing containers to deploy cloud-native applications, developers can exploit base images and elements from internal and external repositories to accelerate their work.
Despite that, even container images from trusted and authorized repositories could possess vulnerabilities that can expose applications to attacks. The solution, and best first line of defense, is to provide developers and security teams with the necessary tools and techniques to block non-compliant images within the CI/CD pipeline.
Scanning images for vulnerabilities and malware in the development phase allows application developers and security teams to enforce the enterprises’ image assurance policies, block non-compliant images, and warn the developers of possible threats.
Another thing to consider is that the security of the application is somewhat reliant on the cloud provider. Moreover, due to the ‘shared responsibility model’, developers and security teams bear an extra burden when securing their application.
Organizations need to accept the new reality that specific aspects of security will need to be managed by their cloud provider, and others will remain with them. For example, Google takes the Shared Responsibility Model seriously and has invested heavily into it. This model allocates security of the cloud to the provider, who then tasks the customer (organization) with security in the cloud.
Specifics can change from provider to provider and service to service, but typically, the customer accepts responsibility and control of the guest operating system, including security updates and patches, as well as any other related software and the configuration of the cloud server. Ultimately, it’s a joint effort to achieve secure cloud-native applications and secure cloud storage.
Understanding and accepting this shared responsibility is essential to any cloud-native application developer establishing security thresholds during development. Not only important as a model for combined cloud maintenance and preservation, but also during the development cycle as developers can easily implement security thresholds and infrastructures using Kubernetes (GKE) specifically designed for cloud-native environments. Businesses should also understand that the security measures put in place by the cloud provider do not absolve them from their own accountabilities.
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